Ullr gets the Led out 

Led Zeppelin tribute band Whole Lotta Led serenades god — just in case

Whistler-Blackcomb was taking no chances this year after last season’s disappointing lack of snow.

They knew better than to toy with the Norse God of snow, Ullr, and thus decided to resurrect the age-old tradition of a pagan party worshipping the snow god to curry snowflake favour.

Just putting the party on the calendar, Wednesday, Nov. 16 at Blackcomb’s Base II, apparently was enough to appease Whistler’s most revered Norse God, with Blackcomb’s earliest opening in 20 years putting the worries of last year’s traumatized skiers and boarders to rest. However, Whistler-Blackcomb is taking no chances and is going ahead with the planned pagan worship, inviting employees and locals alike to celebrate what they hope will be the best season yet.

Whole Lotta Led, Whistler’s Led Zeppelin tribute band, will fanfare the evening in. Although Greg Reamsbottom, a.k.a. Grateful Greg, wasn’t around for the pagan celebrations in the early ’70s, he is well acquainted with tales of bonfires stoked with magnesium from VW engine blocks and skis sacrificed by fire to the god.

"It was a great big old party," he said. "Skis are made less from wood now, so burning them is probably not a great idea. But I heard they are going to build an effigy like Burning Man and are going to burn that. It sounds like fun to me."

Screaming high vocals from Grateful Greg and the electric guitar played Jimmy Page-style with a violin bow from Phil Richard, better known around these parts as Creekside Phil, keeps lineups long and bars around town packed when Whole Lotta Led fires up Zeppelin favourites.

At an open mic night at the Boot, the two melded over a Zeppelin tune; Creekside Phil on guitar, Grateful Greg on vocals: the match couldn’t have been more perfect.

"I heard him play and he heard me sing and a light bulb went on over our heads," Grateful Greg said. "I am pretty lucky I can hit those really high notes all day long. Either your voice can go there or it can’t. Fortunately mine can."

A little luck and maybe a whole lotta singing to boot. Grateful Greg also pairs with Guitar Doug to make the Hairfarmers with up to 250 shows a year around town.

With both musicians passionate about Zeppelin and the fine-tuning of their crafts, they strive to replicate the legendary songs note for note – spurred also out of fear of audience repercussions for a stray music bar.

"The thing with being a tribute band, some people think it is really easy: you’ve heard these songs a million times," Grateful Greg said. "That is the most challenging part because those audiences know those songs note for note. You make one mistake and they are all over you for it. You really have to put the time in to be technically accurate. Musicians really need to nail that stuff down."

Grasping the spirit of Zeppelin is as important as the notes.

"You’ve got to be fearless and have fun and play the music in the spirit it was conceived in: foot on the floor, blues, rock and roll," he said. "It’s a really timeless music. Our audiences range from people who saw Zeppelin in 1969 to kids who just turned 19 years old."

Last spring, the newest Whole Lotta Led fans were members of the T-Party who asked to join the Whistler duo in a jam session at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival’s Afterdark Series show at the Boot Pub.

"They were really fun," Grateful Greg recounted. "We ripped up as best we could."

To ensure, Whistlerites will rip it up for the duration of the winter season, the community is invited to join in the worshipping festivities from 7 to 9 p.m. Organizers are expecting upwards of 2,000 to 3,000 people. The evening includes fire spinners, music from DJ J Rad and Skary, and a climactic fireworks display at 8:15 p.m. Security will ensure the event remains alcohol free, and includes bag checks. Admission is free and a free gondola ride is offered to Base II from the Skiers Plaza. After parties are organized with the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC), Black’s Pub, Merlin’s, Dubh Linn Gate and Longhorn Saloon.

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